Corrie Ten Boom was arrested with her family for hiding Jews during the Nazi holocaust and was placed in Ravensbruck along with her sister Betsie. Life was unbearably hard and the soldiers horribly cruel. In fact, Corrie watched Betsie die at the hands of the Nazi’s just three days before her own release. It would have been very easy to live the rest of her life an embittered, angry woman.
Corrie tells of doing a speaking engagement about her tragic life in the camp and after the meeting, a man approached her who she immediately recognized as a former guard in Ravensbruck. The man slowly approached her hat in hand and admitted to her that he had been a guard there. He confessed that he had done unspeakable things but had since become a Christian. He held out his hand in friendship and asked her to forgive him. Corrie said that in her flesh she did not want to forgive, that she didn’t feel forgiving but knew it was the right thing to do before God. She whispered a desperate prayer for help and then she placed her own hand in his and granted him the forgiveness he asked for.
This is what Corrie Ten Boom said: “Forgiveness is an act of the will, and the will can function regardless of the temperature of the heart.”
In other words, forgiveness is an act of the will and it doesn’t matter how you may feel about forgiving.
Anyone who has been wronged or harmed knows that forgiveness is the only right move but many people struggle deeply with this command of Scripture. It is easier to bury the issue under the rug of activity, or distraction, or excuses than it seems to be to forgive. Also, there is a gross misunderstanding about what biblical forgiveness truly is, therefore, people are not sure what they are agreeing to when asking for or granting forgiveness.
Some people simply don’t want to forgive. The hurt they have experienced is so great, and the pain goes so deep because the violation was so severe that they have decided that forgiveness can never be granted to that individual or group of people. Pastor James MacDonald says, “The bigger it is, the more you should want to get rid of it!” He adds; “Are you being destroyed by a massive injury caused by another that you won’t let go of? The bigger it is, the harder you fall.”
I have been told that in order to forgive you have to be able to forget the offense. This is simply untrue. Forgiving is a part of putting the offense in the rear view mirror of your life. As long as you are unforgiving you are cherishing that hurt, meditating on the wrong done to you, and dwelling on your pain and anger. This is simply not helpful in moving forward! You will not forget, until you learn to forgive. When you forgive it, you release it and then in time, you will begin to forget. Honest!
As I said before, the majority of people who are unforgiving do so by adopting the sweep it under the rug method of dealing with offense. They cite not having the time to deal with it, being too busy, or adopting the adage “time heals all wounds.” In the case of unresolved conflicts nothing could be further from the truth.
Second to that thought is the belief that if they forgive they will only be wronged again. What logic does that employ? Somehow, my holding unforgiveness toward someone is going to prevent them from sinning against me? I have news- they will most likely sin against you anyway. You are not hurting them one bit, but you are hurting yourself. Along that same track is the misunderstanding between forgiveness and trust. Forgiveness does not equal a return to trusting a person. When you grant forgiveness to your 16 year old for getting a speeding ticket it does not mean you trust them with the car keys!
I will end here for today, next time we will look at what forgiveness is not. It is just as important to know that as it is to know what it is!